Asian-Pacific Heritage Month (APAHM) is a special proclamation issued yearly by the United States president to honor the achievements and contributions of Asian-Americans and Pacific Islanders and the roles they have played in the shaping of our nation’s history, society and culture.
A rather broad term, Asian-Pacific encompasses all of the Asian continent and the Pacific islands of Melanesia (New Guinea, New Caledonia, Vanuatu, Fiji and Solomon Islands), Micronesia (Marianas, Guam, Wake Island, Palau, Marshall Islands, Kiribati, Nauru and the Federated States of Micronesia) and Polynesia (New Zealand, Hawaiian Islands, Rotuma, Midway Islands, Samoa, American Samoa, Tonga, Tuvalu, Cook Islands, French Polynesia and Easter Island).
Like most commemorative months, APAHM originated in a congressional bill. In June 1977, representatives Frank Horton of N.Y. and Norman Y. Mineta of Calif. introduced a House resolution that called upon the president to proclaim the first ten days of May as Asian-Pacific Heritage Week. The following month, Hawaiian Senators Daniel Inouye and Spark Matsunaga introduced a similar bill in the Senate, which passed. On October 5, 1978, President Jimmy Carter signed a proclamation designating the annual celebration. In this proclamation, President Carter spoke of the significant role Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders have played in the creation of a dynamic and pluralistic American society with their contributions to the sciences, arts, industry, government and commerce.
Over the next ten years, Presidents Carter, Reagan and George H.W. Bush continued to annually issue proclamations designating a week in May as Asian-Pacific American Heritage Week.
In 1990, Congress passed Pub.L. 101-283, which requested the president issue a proclamation which expanded the observance of Asian-Pacific American Heritage Week to a month-long celebration. This law called on the people of the United States to honor APAHM with “appropriate ceremonies, programs and activities.” President George H.W. Bush issued the first proclamation of APAHM as a month-long celebration on May 7, 1990.
Within the authority of the executive branch, the president of the United States has since issued a proclamation each year.
The month of May was chosen to commemorate the immigration of the Japanese to the United States on May 7, 1843, and to mark the anniversary of the completion of the transcontinental railroad on May 10, 1869. From the more than one million immigrants who journeyed across the Pacific and arrived on Angel Island to the Chinese-American laborers who risked their lives to link our coasts by rail, the determination of this vibrant community represents the best of our national character.
Asian-Americans and Pacific Islanders have embodied the soaring aspirations of the American spirit, and with courage, grit and an abiding belief in American ideals, they have challenged our nation to be better. As we commemorate APAHM, we pay tribute to all those in the community who have worked for a brighter future for the next generation.
Saint Xavier University (SXU) promotes and recognizes the importance behind celebrating diversity amongst its students, faculty and staff, by establishing it as part of the University’s core values. Diversity helps to strengthen SXU’s academic programs and educational environment by preparing students to live and work in an international society and global economy. It is a concept that has remained at the heart of SXU’s history and will continue to grow alongside the institution.